Former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer explained the reasoning behind his support for reparations to black Americans, calling on people of all races to talk about systemic racism “overtly.”

“When I was running for president, I talked about structural racism in America every single day,” Steyer told uPolitics’ founder Erik Meers. “And I was for reparations for black people because I felt that… we absolutely cannot paper over, we have to talk about it overtly, we have to deal with the structural impacts, and there have to be reparations for centuries of structural injustice.”

Steyer dropped out of the crowded field after the South Carolina primary, in which he placed third — a lower-than-expected result. He ran on a progressive platform, particularly highlighting environmental reforms and abolition of private prisons.

The billionaire spoke at length about the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that have occurred in the wake of George Floyd‘s death, noting that while Floyd’s death is “terribly sad,” the conversations his death has sparked “is hugely positive.”

“It’s terrible that the reason this [conversation about structural racism] came about was the murder in Minnesota by the police. The reason this came about is a terribly sad reason,” Steyer said. “But the fact that it came about, in my mind, is hugely positive for the U.S.”

He continued: “I’m entirely behind these protests, this uprising. I think that it’s long overdue. I think it is changing the frame that Americans across the board – black, brown, white, red, yellow – all Americans are seeing for racial justice and a perception of structural racial injustice. I think that’s hugely positive.”

“Look there’s no way to look at equality, inequality in the United States without talking overtly about race,” he added.

Steyer then emphasized the importance of having “uncomfortable conversations” addressing issues of race and racial inequality.

“I was having this conversation with an African-American friend, I think it was last year, and I said ‘we have to have this conversation, but I want you to know how awkward and uncomfortable white people feel having this conversation with African-Americans’ and he looked at me and goes ‘Tom, just so you know, we feel really uncomfortable too,'” he said.

He went on: “And that’s true, it’s a very awkward because it’s emotional and people worry about their lack of knowledge and sensitivity and offending other people and without meaning to, and that’s true and they’re right. So we’re going to have to trust each other and allow each other, and particularly white people have got to be out there listening and taking in and revising their ways of thinking.”

Steyer ended by saying that in addition to policy changes, “we have to have a conversation about race” and in order to offer the proper reparations.

“It’s not just about policy changes. When I was running, I said look we have to have a conversation about race, explaining how we got here, so we can make the right decisions on reparations, but also so we can reframe what’s going on,” Steyer said. “And this protest is a reframing for America of a race. Until we reframe it accurately, repair the damage overtly, we can’t move on.”

“I know African-Americans have been dealing with the bulk of the pain, but white people can’t move on either,” Steyer continued. “As a country, we need to address the underlying systemic racism together, so we can move on together.”

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